4 Must-Have Tools to Help Small Businesses Compete in the Big Leagues

Brett LawrieSmall businesses are a critical element of Canada’s economy, to say otherwise would be a gross understatement. Small businesses in Canada account for nearly a third of the nation’s GDP, employ nearly half of the labour force, and are responsible for over 3 quarters of the country’s exports.  Unfortunately, Statistics Canada (StatsCan) will also have us believe that there is a flipside to Canada’s strong SME presence: lower levels of productivity. A recent StatsCan study suggests Canada’s comparatively large share of small firms is responsible for the difference in productivity – measured as GDP generated per hour worked – between Canada and the US.  Whether or not you are ready to believe this to be the case, there is something you can do about it.  Small businesses looking for a bigger bang for their buck can utilize some of the following tools to help them compete against larger firms located both North and South of the border.

  1. Hootsuite: Take Your Social Media Presence to the Next Level  

Imagine if you could use the same social media marketing tool as large firms like Intel, GM and Starbucks -for free.  Well, you can. Hootsuite’s entry level package includes some powerful capabilities that can save an entrepreneur or small team a great deal of time while maximizing their online marketing efforts.

  • Engagement: Schedule and manage your social outreach. Engage with people across all your accounts on one dashboard.
  • Listening: Listen to your audience and learn to create content they love.
  • Analytics: Get all the data about your social media outreach and see it all on easy-to-read reports.
  • Collaboration: Assign messages, create workflows, and streamline communications with collaborators and clients.
  • Security: Ensure your social media assets are safe and locked down.
  1. Choose a Great Web Hosting Service –or Else

Why is it important to choose the best hosting?  Let’s start with some of the problems you will most definitely run into if you choose the wrong provider: revenue loss (i.e. from unexpected outages), negative effect on your SEO efforts, security and malware attacks.

When choosing web hosting services price should not be your chief concern –and most are not very expensive anyway.  Look for a firm with solid customer service support, a track record of excellent up-time (as in few service interruptions), ability to scale as you grow, and an overall solid reputation.  In North America GoDaddy stands out as a major player in webhosting.  GoDaddy offers services at a reasonable price while offering 24/7 customer support.

  1. Find a Low-Priced Cloud Storage Service

If you have recently started a business or plan to, do yourself a huge favour and stop saving documents to your desktop and fumbling around with USB devices.  And don’t even think about emailing yourself important files so that they are forever lost in the abyss of your email inbox. There are several options for small businesses including drop, Mozy and ZipCloud are a few that come to mind.  And you have probably heard of Carbonite – another great low price cloud storage option for small businesses.

  1. Who Moved My Roladex? Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

This is very important: what colour is your rolodex?  Or do you just stack business cards into small piles on your desk?  That was a trick question.  While collecting and swapping business cards is still a business standard, it is invaluable to have a digital version of your contacts’ details for easy indexing and recall.  While sentimental value might warrant filing away some of your most treasured business cards, please don’t rely on them for the purpose of accessing information, EVER.   A strong CRM platform is vital to growing most any business.   With a CRM system you will reduce the cost of customer acquisition, increase efficiencies, and garner better more accurate data.

But don’t rush into installing just any CRM, you need to put some thought into choosing the right software and how you implement it to meet your short- and long-term objectives.  It’s important because many of the tools that you will be using will be able to integrate.  For example, your event management software, email client, Inbound marketing software, video marketing software, can all integrate with one another in order to maximize their effectiveness while eliminating redundant tasks like importing and exporting data from one system to the other. Needless to say, when a small firm is looking into CRM systems it may also be a good time to simultaneously research other available tools that you might acquire in the near future.

Access Free Government Funding Resources for Start-ups

Mentor Works offers free government funding for start-ups.  Download our free Canadian government funding for start-ups checklist to find out what eligibility criterion your business needs to satisfy in order to qualify for the majority of funding available to small businesses and start-ups.

 

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